The hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee turned uglier this week when the panel went into executive session to deliberate the nomination of Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court. Unknown to committee members, the National Security Administration, without a warrant, listened in on the meeting.
A transcript of the session was leaked to former New York Times correspondent Judith Miller by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, who obtained it from an undisclosed source in columnist Robert Novak's office. We found a copy on a pharmacy counter near Washington's Dupont Circle.
Ted Kennedy: I would appreciate it if the chairman would acknowledge the Christmas card I sent him last month.
Arlen Specter: Just because you mailed me a Christmas card, Senator, doesn't mean I received it. Did you put enough postage on it? Besides, I'm Jewish.
Kennedy: Of course I used enough postage, Mr. Chairman. What do you take me for? I do regret it wasn't a Hanukkah card.
Specter: All right, then. Can we return to the business at hand, please? The issue is whether to issue a subpoena to the White House to find out whether Vice President Cheney wanted to nominate himself to the Supreme Court and retain his post as vice president.
Dianne Feinstein: I'm Jewish, too, Mr. Chairman, but I find no offense in the fact that I received a Christmas card from Senator Kennedy. I see no reason to inject matters of personal faith into these deliberations.
Specter: Now just a minute, Senator. It was just an aside.
Orrin Hatch: Mr. Chairman, may I?
Specter: Of course. The gentleman from Utah. You're a Mormon, right?
Hatch: I want to know if Miss Hill has seen a certain adult video.
Specter: With all due respect, those were the Clarence Thomas hearings. They are long over.
Hatch: Did we confirm him?
Specter: Yes, Senator, more than 10 years ago.
Hatch: Good. How did I vote?
Specter: In favor. Yes, the gentleman from Oklahoma.
Tom Coburn: I strongly object to this nominee because he is from New Jersey.
Coburn: New Jersey is a blue state.
Specter: But Judge Alito has impeccable conservative credentials.
Coburn: He does? I withdraw my objection.
Specter: Yes, the gentleman from Texas.
John Cornyn: I think Senator Feingold is a communist.
Specter: Now, now, there's no reason for ad hominem attacks. What prompted that remark?
Cornyn: All liberals are communists.
Patrick Leahy: Enough! Why do you Republicans always accuse everyone who doesn't agree with you of being unpatriotic?
Coburn: Because Karl told us to.
Leahy: Oy vey.
Charles Schumer: Pat, I didn't know you were Jewish.
Leahy: Good grief, Chuck, I am not Jewish.
Specter: Can we return to the business at hand? The question is whether a sitting vice president, who, under the Constitution serves as president of the Senate and in this case the de facto president of the United States and Iraq, can also fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Hatch: Why not?
Dick Durbin: Orrin, have you heard of separation of powers?
Hatch: My understanding is that the vice president shares power with his wife. Isn't that sufficient?
Specter: Can we please deal with the Alito nomination?
Coburn: Who is Alito?
Joseph Biden: Mr. Chairman?
Specter: The gentleman from Delaware has been uncharacteristically quiet. Go ahead.
Biden: Did you ever get my Hanukkah card?
• Peter Zheutlin is a Boston-based freelance writer.